The THES Diary

August 27, 1999

Drink-tank The Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals has learned a thing or two about targeted lobbying and is putting it into effect at this year's party conferences.

Its fringe meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference in Harrogate next month is entitled "From Ivory Towers to Regional Partners". Devolution has, of course, long been close to the hearts of Lib Dems. At the Labour conference a week later the fringe is called "From Ivory Towers to Business Partners".

Labour has recently emerged as bosom buddy to business.

But the following week's Conservative Party conference proved a little trickier. In the absence of firm party policy on just about everything, not least education, the CVCP chose the diplomatic solution: a booze-up, also known as "a reception".

Minimal disruption There were dire warnings of clearing chaos this year after the Association of University Teachers announced a boycott of admissions. But did the unions' action have any effect? Employers and AUT detractors were falling over themselves this week to claim the impact was minimal. Strangely enough, so was the AUT. "It was never supposed to have massive impact," said an AUT spokesman, saying this would not have been fair on students. "It was to raise issues and get vice-chancellors' attention."

Baby talk Last week, former Thames Valley University vice-chancellor Mike Fitzgerald responded on Radio Four's On the Ropes to allegations over creating debts at TVU. This week, it was Professor Lord Winston, and controversies about creating babies - among other things. For example, was it true that he was a member of the "Failed Pharmacology Club" while a medical student? That the club had its own jokey tie? And that he wore this tie while being examined in his second attempt at the pharmacology qualification? All true, he said. But he did take issue with a further point - that in his student days he was known for being arrogant.

Frying tonight A political science student at the University of Chicago has printed posters urging colleagues to boycott an internet service aimed at students because she claims it portrays them as "slothful, immature and unintelligent". One advertisement by ecampus.com shows two college students watching a third burp the alphabet. Another shows a student frying a goldfish. Emily Hunt's posters declare: "If you want my money, you must respect me!" British universities, beware.

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